Thursday, May 26, 2011

Frazier and Meacham's Conversation Spans a Century or Two

I'm playing catch-up in my life after attending the BookExpo all week. A couple of days ago, I attended the Charles Frazier interview at BEA’s Uptown Stage. He was interviewed by Jon Meacham, Executive Vice President and Executive Editor of Random House, author, TV host, and (who knew?), stand up comic. The audience was probably one third the size as it would have been were it a bit later, but as it was, the atmosphere was quite intimate and I got to sit in the second row—a good thing because Frazier brought with him a soft spoken Southern voice.

Frazier’s latest book, Nightwoods (pub date October 4, Random House) is set in the 1960s, a far cry from the 19th century where he was parked for his two first books, Cold Mountain, and his second less hugely received novel, Thirteen Moons.

“Did you know you wanted to roar into the 20th Century?” asked Meacham.

“I knew I wanted to get out of the 19th century. I wanted people to drive cars, have radio and music.” The conversation turned very quickly toward the themes of his new book.

Meacham: “To what extent do you feel you have to bring things to a redemptive end?”

Frazier: “I tend to think of it more in terms of hope and despair. Cold Mountain [SPOILER ALERT] ends with the main character dead in the snow, but I wanted it to end with a sense of hope and damage….The role of hope in fiction… well, to me it seems like part of the job requirement. There needs to be some hope there … the enlargement of life needs to shine through, even if it’s a very weak glimmer.”

Meacham asks Frazier if he’s ever tackled non-fiction. “Well, I spent two years writing a book about Peru.”

Meacham: “Random House has just left to reprint the book. They’ll call it… Warm Mountain.”

The two shared more banter about how you move through writing problems in fiction that’s based in the present day as opposed to historical fiction.

Frazier: “It’s easier to go to a library for if you get stuck for a day or a week and do research and come out with new ideas than it is to sit down and make something up everyday that’s based in the present day.”

Meacham concurs: “If you want to know about February 1803, that’s where I was last night. Try not to rush the stage.”

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